Week 3: Daily ELA Learning Activities For Grades 5–8

Let's explore Earth (and environmental science)!

Earth is a fascinating place. No other planet in our solar system has the right atmosphere for humans to survive.

Earth can be beautiful and unpredictable, but one thing is certain—we must do what we can to protect our home! This week’s activities focus on words related to the study and conservation of our shared planet.


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Day 1: Word origins

Self-guided activities:

1. Science changes as we discover new ideas, so the words we use to talk about science have to change, too. Sustainability is one example.

Can you find the answers to the questions below?

  • Which book first presented the idea of sustainability, even though it did not use that word? (Hint: It launched the modern environmental movement!)
  • Does sustainability have the same meaning now as it used to have?
  • In what year was sustainability first used in a document by the United Nations (UN)?
  • What does it mean to live sustainably?

You can use this article to help answer the questions.

2. Now find the origins for the following words and phrases related to protecting the environment.

Scroll down each definition page to the Origin section. When was each of these terms first used?

3. Write your own sentence that uses each word or term!

Family time activities:

1. Some of the most beautiful places in the United States are part of the National Park System.

2. Work together to draw a timeline.

Write each of the terms from the self-guided activity on the timeline, noting when it was first used. Then discuss how the word origins compare using these questions:

  • Which words are older?
  • Which words are newer?
  • Did any word origins surprise you?
  • Which other conservation-related words and phrases can you add to the timeline?

Day 2: Roots and affixes

Self-guided activities:

1. Though science words may seem tricky, they often have familiar word parts that help us understand their meanings.

Here’s a quick review of common word parts:

  • A root or base word forms the main part of the word.
  • An affix is added to a word to change its meaning. It can be a prefix or a suffix.

Psst! Here's a refresher on prefixes and suffixes!

2. Now think about the word geology.

Do you know what it means? Let’s break it into parts!

  • Geo- is Greek for “the earth.”
  • -logy means “the science of.”
  • Put the meanings together, and check your answer here!

3. List as many words as you can think of that begin with geo- or end with -logy.

Look up their meanings on Dictionary.com. How do they relate to Earth or science?

Family time activities:

1. Glossary builders

Imagine that you have been asked to write a glossary for a book on an Earth science topic, such as hydroelectricity or aquifers.

  • Work together to brainstorm a list of all of the scientific words you can think of related to that topic, especially those with roots or affixes. This may require some research!
  • Then have family members write glossary entries for different terms. (Use a nonfiction book with a glossary to model your entries after.)
  • Compile the entries into one glossary. Remember to arrange entries in alphabetical order!

2. Ask a family member to list three words with the same prefix, root, or suffix.

Then write a paragraph that uses all three words. For extra credit, create some digital art to go with your paragraph.

Day 3: Multiple-meaning words

Self-guided activities:

1. Some words are spelled the same and may even be pronounced the same but have different meanings.

To understand which meaning the author or speaker intended, read or listen carefully for context clues.

  • Imagine you see the word fault in a book about earthquakes. Which meaning of fault is most likely being used in this sentence?

A. a mistake
B. a break in a rock formation

  • If you answered B, well done! Fault has a specific meaning in Earth science.

Psst! Find out more about earthquakes on the US Geological Survey’s website. There is a neat map of recent earthquakes around the world!

2. Use the search feature on Dictionary.com to look up the following words.

Which meanings relate to science? How do you know?

Family time activities:

1. Secret agent.

One player is the secret agent whose job is to give a message without revealing the code word.

  • Have the secret agent write two or three sentences that use a multiple-meaning word in different ways.
  • When the agent reads the sentences to the other players, they must replace the vocabulary word with the word blank. (For example: The scientists will find the chemical "blank." A baby drinks "blank" from a bottle.)
  • The other players guess the secret word, and the player with the correct answer becomes the next secret agent.

2. Draw a comic in which a character gets into a funny situation by misunderstanding a multiple-meaning word.

Invite your family members to draw their own comics, too!

  • You can use the template below by clicking on the image and printing it out!

Day 4: Word relationships

Self-guided activities:

1. In addition to synonyms and antonyms, words can have other kinds of relationships.

Read these examples.

2. Think of your own sentences for each relationship above.

(Use the example sentences on the definition pages for the terms as models!)

Write your example sentences in the Thesaurus.com Writing Tool!

3. Read a nonfiction article or book about the causes and effects of deforestation.

Keep track of any unfamiliar words as you are reading by writing them down, looking up the definition on Dictionary.com, and recording it in a Word Log. Remember to add to your Word Log as you encounter new words!

Psst! Not sure where to begin? Visit the U.S. Geological Survey website for background information!

Family time activities:

1. Word sort

Write down science words on index cards—one word to each card.

Then sort the words into groups any way you choose. The only rule is that the words in each group must have something in common.

See if a family member can guess the name of each category!

2. Work together to draw a large diagram of a natural landform, habitat, or process (such as the formation of a volcano), and label the different parts.

To make your diagram even more interesting, use collage techniques and textured materials to fill in each part!

When you are finished, discuss how the separate parts relate to the whole process or concept.

Day 5: Words from names

Self-guided activities:

1. What do degrees Fahrenheit, the Richter Scale, and geyser have in common?

They are all science terms that come from proper nouns!

An eponym is a word or phrase based on the name of a person. Scientists and explorers have a habit of naming their discoveries after themselves—or other people name their discoveries after them.

Read this slideshow about more eponyms if you can't think of any!

2. A toponym is a word or phrase based on the name of a place.

  • Review the definition page for geyser.
  • Visit the Yellowstone National Park website to see pictures of Old Faithful, America’s most famous geyser.
  • Search online for photographs of Geysir in Iceland.
  • How are these natural features the same? How are they different?
  • Record your observations in a Venn diagram. (Fun fact: Venn diagram is an eponym!)

Family time activities:

1. Create a crossword puzzle for family members that uses only eponyms and toponyms.

The clues should describe the person or place that each term was named after. While you work on your crossword puzzle for your family, have them make one for you!

2. Say my name!

If your family members had something named after them, what would it be? In this guessing game, use your knowledge of your family’s traits and interests to decide what their legacy will be.

  • Write down the name of each family member on a separate strip of paper. If your family is small, you can include the names of friends or other people you all know.
  • Place the names in a bag, bowl, or hat.
  • Each player chooses one name and says what that person would likely have named after them. (For example, perhaps your little brother is obsessed with dinosaurs. So, he would have a new dinosaur discovery named after him!)
  • The other players must guess the name of the person who will have that legacy!

Day 6: Transition words

Self-guided activities:

1. Transition words and phrases help you connect ideas when you write and speak.

However, but, also, as a result, and next are all examples of transitions.

2. These connecting words come in handy when discussing scientific ideas and processes.

They can show how one step leads to the next, or how a cause leads to an effect. Can you identify the transition words in these sentences?

  • First, a female sea turtle comes ashore to lay her eggs.
  • She then goes back to the ocean by herself.
  • About six weeks later, the eggs finally hatch.
  • The baby turtles finally make their way to the water.

Psst! Read more about efforts to protect threatened sea turtles at the Oceanic Society’s website!

Family time activities:

1. Watch the video below. Have each family member take notes about the process they see.

WATCH: Watch This Word Come To Life: Blossom

 

Now use transitions to write a description of what happened in the video. Invite family members to share their descriptions.

Isn’t it interesting how people used different words to describe the same thing? Discuss!

2. Out of order

Can you think of useful transition words and phrases on the spot? Let’s find out!

  • Write the steps of a scientific process on strips of paper or index cards.
  • Shuffle the steps and place them on a table.
  • Work together to put the steps in order.
  • Summarize the process by using transition words and phrases to link the steps on cards.

Day 7: Writing

Self-guided activities:

1. Respond to one of these prompts using Thesaurus.com's Writing Tool:

  • The governments of the world have agreed to ban all vehicles and factories that produce air pollution. What is this new world like?
  • Imagine you are an aluminum can. Describe your journey from the store to a home to a recycling center from the can’s point of view.
  • Write an explanation of the water cycle for a 7-year-old child. Be sure to use simple vocabulary.

For more ideas, check out this page of writing prompts!

2. Read a nonfiction article or book about an environmental crusader, such as Rachel Carson, Al Gore, or Greta Thunberg.

Look up the meaning of any unfamiliar words on Dictionary.com, then write a report about what you learned in the Thesaurus.com Writing Tool.

Family time activities:

1. Breaking news!

Discuss the ways your family helps the environment, such as by recycling, composting, or using solar energy.

Write a short script that explains your contributions, then film a news-style video segment that shows each family member pitching in.

2. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about one change that would make your community more sustainable.

Cite factual sources in your letter in order to create a strong, compelling argument.


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